While James Van Alen's simplified system of tennis scoring (VASSS) has been around for awhile, this season marks the first time a new method of keeping score has been authorized by the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association for tournaments whose results are used in ranking players. Specifically, tournament directors have been given permission to adopt the "no-ad" system, in which the first player to score four points wins a game. Under traditional scoring, players with three points apiece are tied at 40-all, or deuce, and one must then take two points in a row to win the game. In the experiment, the old scoring terms, love, 15, 30 and 40 are replaced by zero, one, two and three; players with three points each are tied 3-3, and whoever gains the next point wins the game 4-3.
In set scoring, a player must still have a two-game advantage to win, unless the score reaches six-all, when a nine-point tie-breaker is used to decide the set. Together, the set tie-breaker and the non-ad game speed play remarkably without hurting the competitive aspect of the sport. Carl Simonie, a Missouri Valley LTA official, has used the experimental system in every tournament he has run this season.
"In men's play," he says, "the average match was down from an hour and a half to an hour and 15 minutes, which is quite a bit of time over the course of a tournament. Reduction in women's play was more striking. Matches that used to average two to two-and-a-half hours were run off in about an hour and a half."
July 8, 1973
Simonie says that one tournament he conducted this spring drew 183 entries, had 12 courts and was run off in two days. In another, he handled 395 entries on 21 courts in three days.
One of the reasons for the USLTA experiment is to establish a compact, predictable length of time for a match. This would make tennis more palatable to television, which tends to choke on the possibility of marathon games and sets stretching a match far beyond scheduled coverage time. Of greater interest to the average tennis buff, however, is the increased availability of court space. Obviously, if games and sets are completed without delay, more players can be accommodated on the same courts in the same length of time. This is of considerable importance in light of the current rapid growth of tennis as a participant sport.
A note from baseball's Class A Northwest League: the manager of Walla Walla is Cliff Ditto.
TEAM, TEAM, TEAM!
Tennis will have yet another new element next year—if the World Team Tennis League becomes more than a vision. WTTL is a revolutionary concept for the sport—a 17-team league with standings, playoffs, trades and a three-month, 44-match schedule. Each team will have a six-member squad—three men and three women—and a match will consist of three events: men's singles, women's singles and mixed doubles. Matches will be played indoors and will be designed to fit into a 2½-hour time slot "ideally suited for television," according to the league's hopeful publicity releases.
Money and managerial expertise are what the WTTL professes to have in abundance: its sponsors are said to have more than "SI billion in assets" as well as experience in "all the pro sports in America." Yet, while the WTTL says it will operate next May, June and July, it has revealed no definite arena commitments. If it does go off on schedule, it will be bucking the French Open and Wimbledon. And. despite its optimism about the future, WTTL officials have yet to announce which players they expect to have.
There is another stumbling block. The new league will have to re-educate tennis fans. Those who cherish the traditional crescendo of a tournament—the progress of players from a large draw to semifinals and finals—may find the league plan alien and uninviting. Tennis stresses the individual, and it is difficult to imagine a fan identifying with a city instead of a star. Still, there is something appealing in the prospect of Stan Smith leading the Houston Far Outs into a pennant showdown with Rod Laver and the New York Sets.
About the time the U.S. Open field was inundating the supposedly demanding Oakmont course with sub-par rounds, Jimmy Demaret, three-time Masters champion, was complaining that the U.S. Golf Association awards the Open to too many aging courses.
"Oakmont was fine in the old days," he said, "but who needs 187 sand traps? Take Olympic in San Francisco. It's a great course and it has only one fairway trap. One fairway trap. At Oakmont they put in all those traps to make the course tough, but it's outdated. The Model T was a good car in its time, but Ford makes better automobiles now. With 187 sand traps, Hermann Park [a Houston municipal course] would be a hell of a course."
He also took a swipe at famed Pebble Beach, site of the annual Crosby tournament and the 1972 U.S. Open. "If Pebble Beach were 50 miles inland," said the irreverent Demaret, "it wouldn't get a 50-cent greens fee."
A DIFFERENT LIFE
The Miami Dolphins, in their wisdom, made a running back named Joe Booker from Miami University in Ohio their No. 13 choice in the NFL draft. Now the Dolphins are slightly abashed because Booker has decided not to report.
"I guess you'd have to say the Dolphins are upset with me," Booker says. "They feel they wasted a draft choice. I feel kind of bad, but that's business."
Dolphin publicity said of the No. 13 pick: "Joe Booker, a strong-legged tackle breaker, carried the ball only 55 times for 257 yards and four touchdowns in his senior year at Miami of Ohio. Good cutting ability once he gets to the hole."
The only trouble was, Booker usually had to get to the hole from the bench, his accustomed position. "It was a total surprise to the whole campus when I was drafted," he says. "I mean, I didn't even start last season."
He talked at some length with Dolphin representatives. "They tried to persuade me to play," he says, "and a lot of people think I'm crazy. Getting a chance in pro football is every player's goal. For a while, it was mine, too."
Now, however, it is to be a teacher. Indeed, he was student-teaching when the draft news came. "They called me out of class to tell me. Walking back, I was already telling myself I could beat out Jim Kiick. Then I got to the room and looked at those kids, and I saw too many things that have to be done. I've experienced the same ups and downs they're in for. I realized then that football for me was only a meal ticket, a way to get an education."
Booker's decision to stick with teaching was influenced, too, by the realization he would be trying to break into a running attack led by Kiick, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. "If I had been drafted by another team and had been offered more money, I probably would have lost a little more sleep over it," he says. "But I've made my decision, and I'll have to stick with it. Maybe I'm turning my back on the Great American Dream but right now I simply consider the Dolphins' selection of me to be an honor. I prefer a different life."
Manager Eddie Mathews of the Atlanta Braves got a vote of confidence last week but, luckily, not from the club's owner or general manager, which is usually the kiss of death in baseball. Instead, he got his stamp of approval from the wives of the players. Mathews had chewed out his men for lack of concentration, saying, "They are going to have to learn you can't live a normal life during the season. It's not just on the road, either. When the team gets home, the players can't be taking their wives shopping, or cutting the lawn, or running around doing errands. You can't concentrate with all those diversions."
Instead of reacting indignantly at this intrusion into what could be considered their personal affairs, the wives were remarkably understanding.
"I agree with Eddie," said Pitcher Phil Niekro's wife Nancy. "Phil never takes me shopping anyway. He used to do some work around the house, like cutting the grass, but now that he's starting every third day he takes it pretty easy—and I'm not going to ask him to change."
Third Baseman Darrell Evans' wife Sandy said, "If the team is losing, the manager has the right to tell them what to do at home. We don't go out that much anyway." She did point out that the Braves were playing better at home than on the road and added, "Maybe it's the home cooking. I keep Darrell on a steady diet of tacos. That's what he wants three meals a day."
Pitcher Carl Morton's wife Sandi said the matter had never come up before in her husband's career. But, she said, "As far as I'm concerned, if it will help Carl win he can loaf in bed all day if he wants. I'll wait until October to hit him with some work."
The U.S. Public Health Service says American children, even at the lowest economic levels, are among the world's biggest. White American kids are larger than most European children and black American youngsters are bigger than their African counterparts. There has been a steady increase in both height and weight for 90 years, with today's American children 10% taller and up to 30% heavier than those in 1880.
Apropos the continuing wrangle over whether young girls should be allowed to compete in sports with young boys, the report says that at the age of six, boys (both white and black) are slightly taller and heavier than girls, but at 11—prime Little League age—the girls are bigger. No significant differences were found to exist between city kids and their country cousins. However, there were social and economic differences. Generally, the higher the family income and the better educated the parents are, the taller and heavier the children will be.
According to Bud Goode and his Sports Computer, which sounds like a title in a series of modern Tom Swift books for boys, the National Football League will proceed as follows this fall: Miami again will go undefeated (thus extending its spectacular winning streak to a far-side-of-the-moon 34), topping things by again beating the Redskins (13-1) in the Super Bowl. Other division champions will be Green Bay (13-0-1), Pittsburgh (12-2), Oakland (8-3-3) and Los Angeles (7-7). Goode has bad news for St. Louis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Houston and New England, predicting that their combined record will be four wins, 64 losses and two ties (the Patriots will be a neat 0-14).
Lest you dismiss this as computerized nonsense, Goode says that in 1972 the computer picked all seven playoff games correctly, including Miami in an upset over Washington by eight points (the Dolphins won by seven). And it had six of seven right in the 1971 playoffs.
All right, Goode. Blast off.
DEAD HORSE DEPARTMENT
Lambasting track and field officials for persistent stupidity is old hat, but how can you avoid it when they keep trudging on from gaffe to gaffe?
Fran Sichting of Southwestern Oregon Community College ran the 220-yard dash in 23.2 seconds in May to better the American women's record. But because no one had thought to provide a wind gauge for the meet, which is required to determine whether any following wind is within allowable limits, the time could not be submitted as a record.
Then in June the persistent Mrs. Sichting again ran the 220 in 23.2, this time in a semifinal heat at the Women's AAU Track and Field Championships at Irvine, Calif. But abashed meet officials announced that the record did not count because Sichting ran in the ninth lane, and the rules recognize only records established in the first eight lanes. Never mind the reasons for the difference between legal eighth and illegal ninth. Stay with the officials for a moment. Mike Hodges, Sichting's coach, asked one of them why they had allowed her to run in the ninth lane if it were not totally acceptable. "He told me," Hodges said, "that he did not expect anyone to break a record in the semifinals."
A marvelous answer. How can you argue with it? Go beat a dead horse.
MORE ON ALUMINUM
The infiltration of aluminum bats into baseball got a lift this spring when the NCAA gave the Big Ten and the Indiana Collegiate Conference permission to use the bats in conference play. As the season ended, an ICC survey revealed that all seven coaches in that conference were strongly pro-aluminum, mostly for reasons of economy. College baseball is not revenue-producing, and costs must be held to a minimum. The yearly expense for wooden bats in the ICC averages $257 a team, for metal bats only $85.
The players, reluctant at first, began to like the bats. They did not care for the strange pinging sound at contact, but they felt the ball came off the bat with greater velocity. They also said they got "good wood" on the ball even when they hit it down on the handle. And the bats did not sting as much as wood in cold weather. One coach said the "sweet spot" on the aluminum bats covered twice as much area as on wood.
Domed stadiums, artificial turf, metal bats.... Who says baseball doesn't change?
THEY SAID IT
•Billy Graham, evangelist, on the Lord's role in sports: "I don't think there is anything wrong with a man who wants to give credit to the Lord, but I don't think the team with the most Christians on it is necessarily going to win. The Lord may be helping their characters and souls, but I don't think he's any more for the Dodgers than he is for the Braves. More than being concerned with who's going to win the Super Bowl, I feel the Lord is probably more concerned that they might find a day other than Sunday to play it on."
•Jack Grout, golf pro whose pupils included Jack Nicklaus: "In my 62 years, I have seen only two golfers stand too close to the ball. Most golfers stand too far away and throw themselves off balance reaching out as they swing."
•Bill Veeck, freelance commentator on sport: "Little League is a disaster. It exists for parents who are trying vicariously to recover an ability of their own that never really existed."